Kansas City Chiefs 2013 Needs

The Chiefs had 5 Pro-Bowlers this year. That might sound baffling, but it’s not. Only Eric Berry and maybe Tamba Hali (who had a down year) didn’t deserve it, but they could have easily been replaced by Brandon Flowers and Justin Houston. Unfortunately for them, football is a team game, not a contest of who has the most Pro-Bowlers. This team was the perfect example of the sum of the parts being greater than the whole. If you’re as poorly coached and poorly quarterbacked as the Chiefs and lose the turnover battle at a near record rate, you’re not going to win a lot of games. I don’t care how many talented players you have.

Fortunately, for the Chiefs, if they can get a solid quarterback and a solid Head Coach, they can compete in the next year or two. They don’t need any potential rookie quarterback to be an immediate savior like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, or even Russell Wilson. They just need someone to come in and be good, stabilize the turnover situation, make some plays, and the rest should fall into place. The Chiefs also have a few other key needs and a few other key free agents, but among their Pro-Bowlers, only punter Dustin Colquitt is a free agent. Unlike many teams picking #1 overall, they don’t need a complete roster overhaul.

Quarterback

This is a given. Matt Cassel was benched midseason and definitely won’t be brought back at his 7.5 million dollar salary in 2012. Brady Quinn, who took over, looked completely lost on the football field at times, completing 56.9% of his passes for an average of 5.8 YPA, 2 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. 2011 5th round pick Ricky Stanzi couldn’t even get on the field ahead of him. They don’t have anything resembling an NFL caliber starting quarterback on their roster and if they have any hopes of even being respectable in 2013, they need to find a new quarterback this offseason.

3-4 Defensive End

You wonder why the Chiefs are where they are. It’s not just the quarterback position. They spent two top-5 picks on 5-technique defensive ends in 2008 and 2009 and neither of them panned out. As a result, they ranked 28th in the NFL in pass rush efficiency despite having two of the best rush linebackers in the NFL in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. They didn’t get any pass rush from their defensive line.

Chief defensive linemen combined for 5 sacks, 7 hits, and 18 hurries on 1225 combined pass rush snaps, a pathetic 2.7% rate. For comparison, JJ Watt had 21 sacks, 24 hits, and 31 hurries by himself. Dontari Poe in the middle gets a pass because he was a 1st round pick rookie, but they really need help on the outside of their 3 man defensive line (assuming their new coach uses a 3-4, if he uses a 4-3, they’ll need pass rushing defensive tackles). Glenn Dorsey is a free agent this offseason and probably won’t be back, while Tyson Jackson is owed a ridiculous 15 million in 2013 (ah, the olden days when there was no rookie salary cap). He won’t be back unless he agrees to restructure. They need at least one new starter here, preferably two.

Cornerback

I wonder who had the brilliant idea to sign Stanford Routt before free agency even started (after he was waived by Oakland) so they wouldn’t have to pay Brandon Carr the money he wanted as a free agent, even though the Chiefs entered free agency with some of the most cap room in the NFL. Carr turned out to be worth every penny of the 50 million he got in Dallas, while Stanford Routt essentially stole 6 million from the Chiefs, playing poorly when he was on the field and getting cut with 6 million in guaranteed money in his pocket midway through the season. Javier Arenas did a decent job next to stud cornerback Brandon Flowers down the stretch, but they have no depth at the position and Arenas might be best suited as a nickel back.

Middle Linebacker

It’s weird to say, but Jovan Belcher’s murder/suicide opened up a hole in the Chiefs’ starting lineup at middle linebacker. Brandon Siler started a few games in his absence, but he really struggled, especially against the run. Fortunately for them, rush linebacker Justin Houston is so good in coverage (in addition to being an awesome pass rusher) that they really only need their other starting middle linebacker to be a two down run stuffer like Belcher was.

Safety

The Chiefs could use an upgrade at safety next to Eric Berry. Kendrick Lewis was decent in coverage this year, but missed 10 tackles to 25 solo tackles and did not have a single tackle go for a stop (a tackle within 4 yards of the line of scrimmage on 1st down, 6 yards in 2nd down, and the full distance on 3rd and 4th down). For his efforts, he was ProFootballFocus’ 81st ranked safety out of 88 eligible. Abram Elam was decent in Lewis’ absence when he got hurt, but the veteran journeyman is a free agent heading into his age 32 season in 2013. There’s a reason the Chiefs were tied to Mark Barron at 11 in last year’s draft before he went 7th to the Buccaneers.

Wide Receiver

Dwayne Bowe is a free agent and there’s a general sense that he won’t be back with the Chiefs. Even if he is, they still need receiver help, but without him, they have a desperate need and unfortunately for them, I don’t think the answer is through the draft. They have some young receivers in the mix like 2011 1st round pick Jonathan Baldwin, 2010 2nd round pick Dexter McCluster, and 2012 4th round pick Devon Wylie. I think they need to let them develop and the solution is not more youth.

However, the fact remains that they need some veterans in the mix to help their new quarterback along. They can’t rely on a group of youngsters who have never proven anything (with the exception of McCluster, who is a decent slot receiver and probably nothing more). They’ll need to attract some veteran receivers without overpaying, which could be tricky. Meanwhile, Steve Breaston will likely be cut. One of Scott Pioli’s many mistakes as GM, Breaston is owed 3.8 million next season and was a healthy scratch down the stretch, playing 9 snaps total from week 12 on.

Running Back

They could use a backup for Jamaal Charles. As good as Charles was, Peyton Hillis and Shaun Draughn vultured a combined 144 carries from him and he’s probably not a 300 carry back. Hillis is a free agent and as much as Romeo Crennel loved him, Shaun Draughn does not deserve to be getting meaningful carries in the NFL.

Offensive Tackle

Dwayne Bowe isn’t the Chiefs’ only big name free agent. Left tackle Branden Albert was one of the league’s best left tackles before getting hurt this year. 3rd round rookie Donald Stephenson was miserable in his absence. If they can’t re-sign Albert, they may want to at least look at other options at left tackle, rather than rolling the dice that Stephenson will become an NFL caliber left tackle with more experience in his 2nd year in the league.

Guard

This is a similar situation to left tackle. Veteran left guard Ryan Lilja moved to center when Rodney Hudson got hurt and in his absence 2nd round rookie Jeff Allen was horrible, making 13 starts and grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 78th ranked guard out of 80. Lilja retired after the season. They may want to look into other options and at least add competition, rather than rolling the dice that all he needs is another offseason.

Punter

Dustin Colquitt was one of the Chiefs’ 5 Pro-Bowlers and a bright spot on this team, but he’s a free agent and will need to either be re-signed or replaced.

Kick Returner

The Chiefs ranked 24th in the NFL in kickoff return average as Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster became bigger parts of the defense and offense respectively and were replaced by Shaun Draughn at kickoff returner. He struggled.
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Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints: Week 17 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (6-9) at New Orleans Saints (7-8)

Aside from this being a divisional matchup, this is a completely meaningless game for these two teams. Both are out of the playoffs. I have a rule against making significant plays on completely meaningless games. If the teams might not care about a game, I shouldn’t either. There’s just no way to predict what kind of effort either side is going to give.

However, if I had to pick a side, I’d take the Panthers, who I think are really underrated. They’ve lost just 2 games by more than 6 points this season and as a result, they rank a modest 19th in net points per drive. That’s actually a good amount of spots behind the Saints, who rank 12th and we’re not really getting any line value with the Panthers using the net points per drive method, as that says this line should be New Orleans -5, which is right where it is.

That being said, the Panthers rank much better in DVOA, which is net points per drive based, but also takes other things into account. The Panthers rank 12th in DVOA, while the Saints rank 20th and the Panthers rank even better in weighted DVOA, which puts greater weight on more recent games, ranking 9th, while New Orleans ranks 18th. This is because the Panthers have won 4 of 5, only losing in Kansas City after the Jovan Belcher incident. Of those 4 wins, 3 have come by double digits.

We’re also getting a chance to fade a heavy public lean with the Panthers, as the public is all over the Saints. I like this because the public always loses money in the long run. The Panthers should be the right side, but again, it’s hard to like either side. I also hate going against the Saints in the Superdome, but these underrated Panthers should at least keep it close.

New Orleans (70% range)

New Orleans Saints 27 Carolina Panthers 24

Pick against spread: Carolina +5 (-110) 2 units

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Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers: Week 17 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (4-11) at San Diego Chargers (6-9)

Aside from this being a divisional matchup, this is a completely meaningless game for these two teams. Both are out of the playoffs by a long shot. I have a rule against making significant plays on completely meaningless games. If the teams might not care about a game, I shouldn’t either. There’s just no way to predict what kind of effort either side is going to give.

The Raiders do have a powerful trend on their side as they are road dogs off a road loss. Teams are 86-51 ATS in this spot since 2008. The Chargers are also 1-5 ATS in their last 6 home games (3-3 ATS on the road in that same time period). This is also a game they’re expected to do something in. They are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 as favorites or dogs of a field goal or less and 2-0 ATS as 3.5+ dogs in that same time period.

However, the Chargers do have one trend on their side as sub .500 home favorites are 24-10 ATS during week 17 since 2002. I haven’t used that one in any other games where it applies because I didn’t like the lack of line value we were getting with the host, but here I do. The Chargers rank 21st in net points per drive at -0.18, while the Raiders rank 29th at 0.80. If you take the difference, multiply by 11 (the average amount of drives per team per game), and add 2.5 points for home field, you get that the Chargers should be favored by 9.5. That doesn’t even take into account that the Raiders will be starting Terrelle Pryor in his first NFL start.

The Chargers are also, as bad as they’ve been, 4-1 ATS inside the division this year (3-7 ATS outside the division). On top of that, they do always close seasons out well under Norv Turner, going 21-8 ATS in week 14 or later since 2007, including 7-1 ATS in the division. As bad as they’ve been over the past 3 years, they are still 8-3 ATS in weeks 14-17. I expected them to send Norv Turner out in style, but again, it’s hard to back either side.

Public lean: ?

San Diego Chargers 23 Oakland Raiders 10

Pick against spread: San Diego -10 (-110) 1 unit

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Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 17 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (5-10) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8)

Aside from this being a divisional matchup, this is a completely meaningless game for these two teams. Both are out of the playoffs. I have a rule against making significant plays on completely meaningless games. If the teams might not care about a game, I shouldn’t either. There’s just no way to predict what kind of effort either side is going to give.

The Browns do have a powerful trend on their side as they are road dogs off a road loss. Teams are 86-51 ATS in this spot since 2008. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh could be completely flat after getting eliminated from the playoffs. The Browns also have a lack of losses by more than 10 points over the past 3 years. As bad as they’ve been, they tend to play teams close. They have just 8 of those losses in the last 3 seasons, including three this year. That’s important because this is a 10 point line. The Steelers, meanwhile, are 4-10 ATS as double digit favorites in the last 4 seasons.

However, I just can’t take the Browns and 3rd stringer Thaddeus Lewis in his first NFL start. He was recently activated off the practice squad. Normally betting on 3rd stringers is a very bad idea, but Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is 17-2 SU against rookie quarterbacks. Lewis isn’t technically a rookie, but he’s never thrown a pass in a regular season game. He’ll also be without Trent Richardson.

I can see this game starting out close, maybe 3-3 early, while I’m sitting there thinking “I should have blindly followed the road dog off a road loss trend,” but then it becomes a blowout in the 2nd half as Lewis throws at least one pick six to a Pittsburgh defender before it eventually ends with Pittsburgh up by at least two touchdowns. I don’t like either side, but I’d take the Steelers if I had to.

Public lean: ?

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Cleveland Browns 9

Pick against spread: Pittsburgh -10 (-110) 1 unit

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Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans: Week 17 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) at Tennessee Titans (5-10)

Aside from this being a divisional matchup, this is a completely meaningless game for these two teams. Both are out of the playoffs by a long shot. I have a rule against making significant plays on completely meaningless games. If the teams might not care about a game, I shouldn’t either. There’s just no way to predict what kind of effort either side is going to give.

However, if I had to take a side, it’d be Jacksonville. The Titans have no business laying more than a field goal against anyone. They are worse than even their 5-10 record would suggest they are the 3rd worst team in the NFL in points differential, thanks to a league leading 6 losses by 21 or more. They rank 31st in net points per drive, DVOA, and weighted DVOA as a result, even worse than the Jaguars.

They Jaguars may only have 2 wins, but they rank 30th, 30th, and 29th in those 3 things respectively. They already beat the Titans once this season and they have a good chance to do so again. If you take the difference between the Jaguars’ net points per drive and the Titans’, multiply by 11 (the average amount of drives per team per game), and add 2.5 points for home field, you get that Tennessee should be just 2 point favorites here , rather than 4. Even if they don’t win, I like getting the points with the Jaguars.

Public lean: Tennessee (60% range)

Tennessee Titans 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 23

Pick against spread: Jacksonville +4 (-110) 2 units

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Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos: Week 17 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (2-13) at Denver Broncos (12-3)

This is the biggest line of the season, tied with San Francisco/Arizona at -16.5, but unlike that game, this game actually merits a 16.5 point line. This line really can’t be high enough. Kansas City ranks dead last in net points per drive, DVOA, and weighted DVOA, while the Broncos rank 4th, 2nd, and 2nd respectively in those 3 categories.

If you take the difference between the Broncos’ net points per drive and the Chiefs’ net points per drive, multiply by 11 (the average amount of points per drive), and add 2.5 points for home field, you get that Denver should be favored by 20.5 and I think it’d take them all the way up to that. The only way the Chiefs can move the ball offensively is on the ground and the Broncos rank 3rd against that. This should be a complete blowout. I just hate laying this many points, so it’s a small play.

Public lean: Denver (60% range)

Denver Broncos 27 Kansas City Chiefs 3

Pick against spread: Denver -16.5 (-110) 1 unit

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Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals: Week 17 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (10-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)

In spite of that big win in Pittsburgh last week, Andy Dalton and these Bengals still have a lack of success against playoff teams over the past two years. After going 0-8 against playoff teams last year, they’ve had very limited action against playoff teams this year. They have played 3 games against Pittsburgh and the Giants, but neither of those two teams is likely playoff bound.

These Ravens, who blew them out 44-13 week 1, are. The Broncos, who beat them earlier this year, are. The Bengals did beat the Redskins in Washington earlier this year in a game in which Washington left tackle Trent Williams got hurt and that’s the closest thing they have to a win over a playoff team (if Dallas qualifies over them, they won’t have a single one).

In those 12 games (8 last year and Baltimore, Denver, Washington, and Dallas this year), Dalton is a combined 256 of 448 (57.1%) for 3013 yards (6.7 YPA), 13 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. In the other 18 games, he’s 390 of 631 (61.8%) for 4234 yards (6.7 YPA), 33 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions. Even against Pittsburgh (in both games against them), he didn’t play well.

Cincinnati is talented enough on both the offensive and defensive lines to beat teams like the Steelers and Giants despite Andy Dalton’s struggles against those types of teams, but I don’t think that will be enough here. Given that, I’m grabbing the points with the team for whom this game means more too (Cincinnati is locked into the 6th seed, while Baltimore has a chance to move up to #3).

Public lean: Baltimore (50% range)

Baltimore Ravens 24 Cincinnati Bengals 20 Upset Pick +120

Pick against spread: Baltimore +2.5 (-110) 2 units

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